Merkel defends coalition deal against critical party members

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News weekly Der Spiegel in a cover illustration showed a nude Merkel, with gleeful SPD figures running off with her clothes.

Angela Merkel being interviewed by ZDF journalist Bettina Schausten.

On Friday SPD leader Martin Schulz abandoned a plan to serve as foreign minister in the new government, saying he did not want debate about his role to jeopardise the new coalition.

She also defended "painful" concessions made to the the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) to clinch a coalition deal.

The chancellor's power pact includes concessions to the left on key policy issues, cedes the powerful finance ministry to the SPD and opens Germany to potentially costly reforms to the European Union and euro single currency that horrify conservatives.

"I understand the disappointment", she said, but stressed that she "naturally" planned to stick with her pledge to stay on for four years as chancellor and party chief rather than make way for a successor before the end of the term. The CDU has six ministerial posts to fill.

Merkel was weakened in a September election in which her conservative bloc bled support to a far-right party thrust into parliament for the first time by voters angry at her decision in 2015 to welcome more than a million immigrants.

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The perception among Social Democratic Party activists that party chief Schulz had fashioned himself a life raft from the wreckage of an election disaster threatened chances the rank and file would green-light a controversial coalition deal sealed just two days ago.

A survey by pollsters Civey found this week that around 60% of SPD supporters would back the party entering government once again. "It was a very conscious decision at one point [during negotiations] to say "yes" this works, even though I know and I myself felt it was painful", Merkel said.

With many in the CDU unhappy about the loss of the key Finance Ministry, previously headed by European Union austerity advocate Wolfgang Schäuble, Merkel said the criticism was not a sign that her authority in the party was declining.

But she added that it would have been "irresponsible" to allow the negotiations to collapse. The result of the vote is expected to be announced on March 4. "I want to say that the we [the conservatives] have also approved the policies [in the agreement] and the finance minister can not simply do as he likes".

Germany will no longer lecture other European countries over their economies, the next finance minister of the eurozone's richest nation said on February 10.

But Mr Scholz also said that the SPD would maintain Mr Schäuble's balanced budget policy.